Collaborative planning software for innovative urban infrastructure

Design the cities of the future — in the cloud, today

Advanced Transit Association industry group

Collaborative, parametric, urban infrastructure design

Many different parties are needed to design urban infrastructure: planners, architects, engineers, developers, financiers, citizens groups, and more — each with unique interestes and capabilities. Smooth collaboration has always been a challenge. Podaris solves this problem with cloud-computing technology, letting you design smart cities together.

Podaris consists of:

  • A browser-based frontend — enabling realtime collaboration between planners and stakeholders.
  • Sinple yet powerful constraints-based parametric modelling — enabling non-technical stakeholders to participate in the planning and design process.
  • A backend which enables third-party applications to synchronise with Podaris, extending its collaboration & modelling capabilities to established planning & design software.

Podaris is currently in alpha testing. We expect to launch in late summer 2014.

Focus on advanced transport systems

Eventually Podaris model many different types of urban infrastructure. But initially, we are focusing on public transport networks — particularly recent innovations in transport technologies, for which few planning and design tools are otherwise available. Automated Transit Networks (ATNs) will be the first type of urban infrastructure to be fully supported by Podaris.

Automated Transit Networks have been in commercial operations since 2010. They consist of lightweight electric vehicles travelling on networks of slender guideways. In many applications ATNs are faster, more convenient, more flexible, more cost-effective, and more environmentally friendly than other transport technologies. ATNs cause no congestion, create no pollution, have been tested in commercial service around the world, and are now ready for wider application.

There are two classes of ATN technology:

  • Group Rapid Transit (GRT) is like a driverless bus, with more frequent service and lower operating costs. Custom GRT systems have been in service for over 35 years, but off-the-shelf GRT technology has only become available recently.
  • Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) is like a driverless taxi. PRT provides on-demand, private, non-stop service — the best passenger experience of any urban transport technology. PRT systems have been in service since 2010, and are now operating in the UK, the UAE, and South Korea.

ATN implementation is a complex process involving many stakeholders, and Each ATN vendor has a unique technology with different specifications and capabilities. Podaris will allow networks to be planned in a vendor-neutral fashion — parametrically generating infrastructure that is fully accurate to the specifications of participating vendors.

Podaris will provide basic transport planning capabilities, enabling rapid analysis of waiting and journey times, network capacity, spatial accessibility, and cost. Podaris' planning and analytical capabilities can also be used to model conventional transport modes, as well as multi-modal networks.

Read more about ATNs at homepage of the Advanced Transit Association Industry Group.

Status Updates


Podaris was founded in April 2013, and began full-time development development in March 2014. It is currently in testing, with public release expected in late summer 2014. If you would like to join the test programme, email us at info@podaris.com.

Update 2 — 07 June 2014

User accounts, User interface enhancements, Parametric modelling, Geometric constraints solving, Journey-time calculations, Layer controls, Collaboration controls, Guideway and station rendering

Update 1 — 24 April 2014

Why we are creating Podaris, and an early glimps at our interface.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Podaris?

Podaris is a browser-based sofware-as-a-service collaborative planning and design platform for urban infrastructure. We are initially focusing on supporting next-generation public transport networks, and are aiming for a public release in Q3 2014.

Q: What sort of transport networks can Podaris be used to design?

Podaris will enable you to to model any kind of transport network, however we will provide advanced engineering capabilities for Automated Transit Networks, which can particularly benefit from Podaris' design collaboration capabilities, and otherwise have few planning and design tools available for them.

Q: Why is a new design platform needed for ATNs?

Currently there is little publicly-facing software dedicated to the planning and design of ATNs. Most planners, engineers, and designers are unfamiliar with the unique properties of ATNs, so in the absence of tools to assist them, they must rely on external consultants with special knowledge of ATNs, even for very simple tasks. This complicates and slows down the planning and design process, and has become one of the primary barriers to the implementation of ATNs. Therefore, new software tools are needed.

Moreover, ATNs have unique properties that are not easily accommodated by existing design platforms. Where traditional fixed-infrastructure transport systems typically operate within a linear reserved corridor and are designed by a single authority, ATNs can be integrated much more closely into the built environment, and can form complex, organically-growing, multi-party mesh networks. Therefore ATNs can have more designers and stakeholders than traditional systems, introducing potential complications into the design process.

Podaris solves these problems by creating a collaborative design environment where all planners, designers, and stakeholders can work together in the cloud to shape their Automated Transit Network.

Initially Podaris will be a standalone browser-based web application. Later we will develop a product line of plugins to integrate with industry-standard planning and design platforms such as SketchUp, ArcGIS, VISSUM, and AutoCAD. These lugins will allow engineers to work within their familiar environments while continuing to take advantage of Podaris' cloud-based collaboration capabilities.

Q: Who will use Podaris?

Podaris is designed to be used by anyone with an interest in urban infrastructure. It will provide special benefits for developers, transport planners, urban planners, architects, and engineers — but its basic functionality will be easy enough for anyone to use.

Q: How much will Podaris cost?

Podaris will be free for basic use. For users requiring more advanced features,it will be made available for a nominal per-user subscription, with discounts available for site licenses, not-for-profit organisations, and academic institutions.

Q: What kind of hardware is required to run Podaris?

Podaris is based on open HTML5 standards, and will be able to run on any modern web browser, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer 10+.

Q: Will this make transport consultants obsolete?

No — Podaris will add value for customers, technology vendors, and transport consultants alike.

For customers, engaging a consultant is an expensive proposition, with even the most basic pre-feasibility studies costing tens of thousands of dollars. Although many institutions are interested in ATN systems for their sites, relatively few are sufficiently committed to take this hurdle. As of today, consultants and technology vendors must spend a great deal of time, effort, and money, answering questions from prospective customers, hoping to convince them to take the plunge and commit to studying an ATN application in detail.

Podaris will letting anyone experiment with the basic layout of ATN networks themselves — providing rapid and acurrage feedback about physical footprint, journey time, capacity, and other key parameters. This kind of high-level design is something that few customers are willing to engage a consultant for, and that industry professionals often find themselves doing on spec. By empowering customers to do this level of conceptual design for themselves, Podaris will let prospective customers deepen their interest in ATNs at little or now cost — and without costing the industry anything, either. Some Podaris users may discover that ATNs are not actually appropriate for their site — but the ones who find otherwise will be more willing to take the next steps in system study, design, and implementation.

At that point, there will still be a role for expert human intelligence in the study and design process. Although Podaris can automate many of the routine engineering tasks, this will free industry professionals o focus on things which are arguably more important: stakeholder engagement, business-case optimisation, procurement methodologies, financial vehicles, productionisation, and other non-trivial tasks.

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